summer pea salad with unexpected dressing

A little catch-up: Two days ago, our kids boarded a bus to sleepaway camp while dozens of parents waved like (I’d like to think adorable but also value self-awareness) lunatics as it pulled away. I learned a few years ago when my son went to camp for the first time that I become unmoored — who am I if nobody demands things and interrupts my thoughts all day?! — without the presence of my adorable but exhausting offspring. Last summer, I ran out of cooking steam while waiting for my daughter to request anything but noodles for dinner. This summer, despite the fact that she’s a baby who was just born (don’t tell me otherwise), my daughter also wanted to go to camp, mostly because she wants to be wherever her brother is and I’m not crying, you are. Fortunately, the photos I refresh, refresh on the camp app all day — in lieu of doing anything more productive or even hedonistic with my time — show them to be having a blast and how could they not be when the first night ended with whipped cream pies in the faces of the counselors on the losing team and nobody challenges their palates beyond pizza, chicken nuggets, and waffles?

summer pea salad-2

This is still a cooking blog, I promise. But if the structure of my cooking life for the last 13.75 years has been shaped to the needs of people who need to be fed multiple times a day, what is left? The reality is that when my kids are away for one night or three, we just go out. We live in New York City; why on earth would we be washing dishes if we could be getting queso fundito and the Caeser-y tomatillo salad at Yellow Rose, as we did Sunday night, or meeting friends at Win Son, as we will later this week, or sweeping sourdough through the garlic-chile butter puddle left behind by the prawns a la plancha while drinking vermouth at Cervo’s, as I’m sure we will weekly?

summer pea salad-1

But last Friday we had dinner at Diner in Williamsburg and my husband and I wolfed down the mixed pea salad and I had a kernel of an idea for what we might eat on the days we do not go out, for the sake of our general constitution or at least livers: make the food they’d never let me, or for which I’d have to endure so much complaining, it threatens to suck the joy out of cooking. And with that, we finally have a new recipe.

summer pea salad-3

About this salad: The markets are overflowing right now with every kind of summer pea — sugar snaps and favas and shelling peas and snow peas in every color and for the small price of sending the pea-skeptics in your life away, you can make a glorious salad with any single one or a mix of them. You can even make a delicious vinaigrette with a shunned ingredient that everyone will run from (unless they try it, which they will not). You can eat it at 8:45pm, because there are no schedules anymore. This salad itself is very flexible; I hope you’ll think of it as a template for a summer salad, no matter what kind of pod vegetables you have on hand. Feel free to use different herbs. Use burrata or a scoop of fresh ricotta or crumbled feta instead of ricotta salata; use avocado instead to keep it dairy-free. Use another nut or seed; add greens if you prefer salads with leaves. But I insist you try the dressing. It’s going to surprise you and I can see it being a staple on roasted vegetables this winter.

summer pea salad-6

Summer Pea Salad with Unexpected Dressing

  • Servings: 2 to 4
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen, but inspired by a pea salad at Diner in Williamsburg
  • Print

  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar, warmed
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallot
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds fresh summer peas, such as sugar snaps, snow peas, shelling peas, and/or favas
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon smooth dijon mustard (optional)
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Red pepper flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds (I’m using marcona), roughly chopped
  • 2 to 3 ounces sliced or crumbled ricotta salata cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

Make the dressing: Chop the raisins into rough bits and place in a bowl with shallots. Pour vinegar over and stir to combine. Let sit, cool, and infuse while you prepare the remaining parts of the salad.

[Note: It is completely up to you whether you wish to cook sugar snaps and/or snow peas; both are delicious raw. For this salad, I cook the sugar snaps for 30 seconds to 1 minute but leave the snow peas raw.]

Cook your peas: Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of ice water. If using favas or shelling peas, remove them from and discard their pods. Cook favas in the water for 3 minutes; shelling peas for 1 minute, and sugar snaps and/or snow peas for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Scoop each out immediately with a slotted spoon and drop in the ice bath. If you choose to not cook your sugar snaps or snow peas, skip the pot and put them directly in ice water for 10 minutes for the best juicy crunch.

One peas are fully cold, drain and pat dry on a large towel. If you’ve used favas, they have one final step of preparation: You’ll need to make a small slit with a sharp paring knife in the outer light green pod so that the inner dark green enjoyable part of the fava can slip out.

Finish the dressing: Add dijon, if using, 3 tablespoons olive oil, salt (about 1/2 teaspoon Diamond kosher), freshly ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes to dressing and whisk to combine, tasting for seasoning and adjusting as needed. If you’d like it less kicky, add remaining tablespoon olive oil.

Assemble and finish: Transfer peas to a bowl and toss with dressing to taste; you may not need it all. Add more seasoning, if needed. Add almonds, cheese, and mint and toss once again. Eat right away.

Do ahead: Vegetables and dressing can be prepared and kept cool, separately, up to a day in advance. Mix only before serving.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New here? You might want to check out the comment guidelines before chiming in.

66 comments on summer pea salad with unexpected dressing

      1. Colleen

        It is totally the raisins — I read that and thought “I wonder if I can leave out the raisins?” It is one of those foods that people feel strongly about. They are sneaky and make you think that cookies have chocolate chips and — I am not a picky eater, so I say this with a chuckle — typically I would skip a recipe with raisins, but I trust Deb, so maybe. Maybe I will think about it.

        1. Mokhe

          I really dislike raisins so I used half of what the recipe called for and couldn’t even taste them! They just helped balance the acidity of the dressing. :)

      2. Theresa

        You should have seen my face when I realized the dressing involves raisins. I like raisins but I did not expect to see them here. TBH I’m skeptical but Deb said it will be good so I’ll try it.

    1. Teresa

      Nor me. Is dijon mustard considered suprising? I have put it in my stock dressing since I was just learning to cook, thanks to a vinaigrette recipe from Mary Cantwell in Mademoiselle magazine.

  1. Lauren

    I can’t wait to make this. I had a similar salad at Roberta’s. It had toasted macadamia nuts and there was horseradish in the dressing. It was divine.

  2. Karen

    I just finished your charred and raw sugar snaps on burrata (2nd time in as many weeks) and can’t wait to try this one!

    1. Julie

      The dressing sounds delicious, should be a lovely sweet and tangy mix. Raisins arent shunned in my house. Just limited because of sugars.
      Growing up my family used to serve ham with raisin sauce & made raisin pies. Haven’t made either in years. Have to try to dig up the recipes again.

  3. Eva

    Whoops!!! Scrolling back up through your post I see that you have burgundy peas in the colander, hence the pop of color I thought was beets. (I think they would be a nice addition as well). I’ve never seen those and have something new to add to my garden seed purchase for the fall!

    So, thanks for the salad recipe and introducing me to burgundy peas!

      1. Eva

        Oh , why not? i think they’d be delicious in this salad and s many others. Just have to mix them in just before serving so they don’t bleed or use golden beets. Or do i detect a plain old dislike of beets?

        1. MMH

          This is an a turn made without signaling but 1 of my best chef tricks for beets is this – roast them in foil with a sprinkle of red wine vinegar. It sets the color so they won’t bleed!

  4. cary

    Too funny — our 3 kids are at camp for the month and I came here first for some salad inspiration for that very reason. Crazy coincidence reading your intro!! Making this tonight (in the most calm and quiet home). ;)

  5. Chris

    Those purple peas are just beautiful but I have never seen them. Maybe I’ll grow them if I can find the seeds..or peas. :) Your kids are gone for 4 weeks? How does that even work? Will you get to see them at all? Nope, couldn’t do 4 weeks..2 weeks would be stretchin it.. :)

  6. BoFiS

    Just a note that the only real difference between normal, dark, raisins, and golden raisins is that “golden” raisins are treated with sulfur dioxide to keep them from turning brown, which imo is an unnecessary preservative that I try to avoid whenever buying dried fruits since dark raisins or apricots taste exactly the same!

    1. KC

      I personally do not think golden raisins and regular raisins taste at all the same, and have done blind taste tests. They’re generally made from different types of grape, and different types of grapes have different prominent notes – also it seems like golden raisins are often dried out slightly less? But in any event, people who don’t taste a difference can sub regular raisins in if they want to for their own foods. :-)

      I do prefer dried apricots without sulfur dioxide, though it’s a pretty minimal flavor difference for me and the color is less appealing. No objections to sulfur in general, though; it’s a mineral we need; I’d just rather get it from eggs and other proteins!

  7. Janet in NC

    Oooh I might try adding Dijon to the raisin – white wine vinegar dressing for your fabulous kale salad recipe as well, sounds delicious.

  8. JenBeee

    This sounds wonderful! I have a few sugar snaps from my garden (like, literally 5 pods) that I’ll supplement with whatever the market has. My son is at camp for 2 weeks right now and it’s hard to know what to do with myself!! We have been going out for sushi, Thai, and other delicious foods that he hasn’t, uh, embraced yet. :)

  9. Maryka

    I made this tonight with some beautiful multi-colored sugar snap peas that I got at the farmers market this afternoon. The only change I had to make to the recipe was to substitute cotija for ricotta salata. It was delicious and I can’t wait to serve it to company.

  10. Grey

    I made this last night (with snow peas from my garden and sugar snaps and shelling peas from the local farm), and it was delicious! I discovered after coming home from the store that the almonds in my pantry were very expired, so I swapped in pistachios and can confirm that they work well.

  11. Lauren

    This is so incredibly timely because last night I had dinner at Steel & Rye in Milton, MA and we ordered the chopped salad, which was barely blanched spring peas, snap peas, snow peas and asparagus with a few tiny leaves of lettuce, feta, charred lemon vinaigrette and puffed amaranth, and I found myself thinking “I bet Deb would dig this!” And here we are. They also had a fabulous stracciatella toast with spring pea purée, if you were looking for another spring pea direction! Enjoy your downtime, Deb!

  12. Bridgit

    This reminds me of your cabbage salad with apricots (I think it’s apricots—maybe that’s just how I make it) with Parmesan.
    I like to soak raisins in balsamic to toss in a salad—they mirror the tartness of cherries, but without the cost, with the bonus of a fruity start to an excellent salad dressing.

    1. Bridgit

      Also, we keep a running list of meals to eat when a certain family member is not coming to dinner—tofu, samosas, cabbage pasta (cabbage anything). I’m glad you found something to make-even if it’s just for your liver’s sake!

  13. Brooke McMurray

    This is one of the most delicious salads I have ever made! Brought to a picnic and it was gone in an instant. Perfect to make right now — early summer—- with the freshest ingredients right from the garden: shelling, snap and snow peas. Wonderful combination of flavors and textures. Made exactly according to the recipe.

  14. Angel

    This is off topic, sorry, but just realized there’s no angel food cake on this site??? Not to be demanding or anything, but we’d like our angel food cake recipe now [insert laughing emoji].

  15. Rebecca

    When I saw this on Deb’s insta I knew I had to try it right away — my spouse loves peas & herbs and I love surprise raisins in savory dishes! It was as great as we hoped!

    I subbed the ricotta salata for feta, and subbed the white vinegar for rice vinegar, and all came out great.

  16. andreea

    This is a restaurant-quality dish, seriously so delicious! Made it for lunch alongside a dry rosé. I used dry, roasted, salted almonds because we had them, but next time, I will definitely upgrade to marconas.

  17. Brenna

    Made this with just snap peas and mint from my garden. DIdn’t have golden raisins so I used black ones and I only had red wine not white wine vinegar and the dressing was still great!!! Definitely making this again.

  18. Carina

    The dressing is really delicious. I used the mustard and three tablespoons of oil. It worked well for me to soak the raisins and shallots in a jar, add the other ingredients, and shake.

  19. MP

    Made this without red and black pepper due to food sensitivities. Used dried cranberries instead of raisins. Included the optional mustard. And, I couldn’t find fresh mint so I used dried. Everyone still enjoyed it. Thank you!

  20. Mokhe

    This was SO good! I am not a fan of raisins so I did reduce the raisins by half. They added a nice sweetness to the dressing and it really didn’t taste like raisins at all! Too many other delicious flavors going on. I used snap peas from the store and about 1/4 cup shelled peas from the garden. Don’t be intimidated thinking you need multiple pea varieties. This would have been amazing still with just snap peas. It’s also very easy to halve the recipe to be a side dish for 2 people. I made a lemon rosemary chicken thigh to go with.

  21. Hilary Grasso

    I hear you! I came on here today because we’re having friends over for dinner and I’m apparently supposed to make dinner. I’m not sure I’ve done more than pour cereal since the camp bus left and usually I’m an avid cook. It is strange though, that the time with the best produce from both the markets and my garden is when I shut down the kitchen for 6 magical (albeit a little lonely and sometimes too quiet) weeks!

  22. Donna L

    This recipe was so good that my 92-year-old mother who was an excellent cook, said it was one of the best salads she ever tasted. That is one heck of a compliment coming from Mary! I doubled the dressing recipe and made different variations of salad components but always the peas and the mint.

  23. Surati

    The dressing is similar to one I make all the time, shallots, dijon. EVOO, white wine vinegar, oh Yeah. But the addition of the raisons woulc rock my boat.

  24. Stacy Garn

    Okay, I just peed my pants watching Sleep Away Camp on YouTube. Too true! Have to go refresh now.

    Thanks for the giggle today. :)

  25. Cindy Rosenbaum

    This pea salad was absolutely amazing!!!!!!!! We’re overrun with peas of all sorts in our garden, so this was perfect. Used mostly sugar snaps (blanched for 3 minutes), 1 cup of English peas (blanched for 2 minutes) and a handful of snow peas (blanched for 2 minutes). Used red raisins because I had no golden ones, and used red wine vinegar because no white. It was absolutely outstanding! I’m so happy that I still have lots of peas because I’m making this one again next week, along with the Charred and Raw Snap Peas and Burrata that I made last night! 2 Smitten Kitchen winners in a row, but then again, all your recipes are winners, Deb!

  26. Brittany G

    I’m in love with this! I used ricotta for my cheese and spread it on the plate as a base, and topped with some chopped salad greens. I also added a can of chickpeas to the pea/dressing/herb mixture, and some basil. This was a great easy way to use up a bunch of my spring veggies. Made the dressing as is and it was excellent!

  27. Maryka

    I am making this for the third time tonight with sugar snaps from the farmer’s market. I love this salad! I’ve had it by itself, but also on a bed of lettuce with other fresh veggies like roasted beets and some deviled eggs. A comment about substitutions: the first time I make a recipe, I follow it very carefully, as I did with this one. Tonight I’m using regular raisins and minced green onions because that’s what I have on hand. I suspect it won’t make a ton of difference.

  28. Diane

    This was incredible. Blanched all the peas, but just barely so still crisp. Used feta for the cheese. Served as part of farm lunch with pork tenderloin, roasted potatoes and lettuce salad. See IG post @tanddfarms.

  29. Judi

    This was delicious! I had some peas and favas from the garden, but made a couple changes…didn’t have golden raisins so used dried apricots and feta cheese. A keeper recipe for sure.